Ah, I miss it.
100 years ago, two men, Amundsen and Scott, were determined to be the first to reach the South Pole by only one possible means of transportation; on skis. Antarctica, such an alien and hostile world, is where the wind, sun and ice are dominant in the 5 million square mile continent.
I enjoyed every aspect of it. The frigid cold, the brutal wind, the powerful hidden UV rays, the vast nothingness and the company of my father and brother. The success to completing any adventure is through determination and patience. While I had both, it was a reminder to how I managed on my first expedition, Kilimanjaro, when watching my father and Haytham cope with their new environment and adapt one day at a time.
Although I anticipated a higher challenge, it was most surely out of my comfort zone and required hard work in earning respect from the Antarctic extremities. There is no margin for error. The cold can freeze you, the sun can burn you, the wind can bite you and the monotony can wear you down. On the last day, I thought Antarctica had accepted me because of the generous treatment it gave me but not so; on the final stretch, it slapped me with a fierce wind bite on my cheek leaving a scar, hopefully not permanently – a sure reminder to be on alert at all times.
The long grueling hours of skiing took a toll on the body but alas it was what was needed to achieve the goal of reaching the South Pole and my determination kept me in good spirits. The hourly breaks were no joy. Emptying the bladder, hydrating and eating were mandatory at each stop and were an energy draining mission. Each day was an achievement that strengthened our resolve.
The sight of the South Pole, first spotted from 15 kilometers out, gave us a false perception of heaven. It was a large fortress, the Amundsen-Scott station, neatly hidden and tucked in the dense clouds, a rare sighting after 10 days of nothing but the wind, sun and ice. It was adrenaline jolting.
Yes, after arriving at the southern most point on Earth at the day’s end, I felt a tremendous reward and the paying off of the planning, training, self-discipline and tedious treks but neither compared to the feeling rushing through me at the appearance of my father and Haytham collapsing into each other’s arms with joy pouring out of them. Before joining, I snatched the opportunity for a minute to observe and capture a few pictures. This is the one minute that will be embedded in my memory for the rest of my life – the turning point of the expedition. It was emotionally magnificent.
Standing on Antarctica, the last great pristine and protected place on Earth, is a privilege!
The wind, sun and ice. Ah, I miss it.